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Outsource or Do-It-Yourself?
Call Center Software Featured Articles
June 15, 2009


Outsource or Do-It-Yourself?


By Rob Duncan
Chief Operating Officer, Alpine Access

Here’s a new answer to the question posed in the headline of this article: The decision doesn’t have to be one or the other.
 
Outsourcing customer service, particularly to a home-based provider, is more efficient and more effective. Bottom-line. Over the past year, this column has focused on helping companies understand this undeniable, proven fact.
 
So why do most companies still handle customer service in-house using a brick-and-mortar facility? To those of us in the outsourcing world, this seems crazy. We know there’s a better way. But, we also know that despite all the benefits of the at-home model, change is hard, especially when a significant investment has been made in the existing infrastructure and processes.

 
Most companies I talk to understand outsourcing customer service is likely a better solution for them. Yet they continue to pay unnecessary overhead costs, take whoever they can get for employees, and pay for less effective training because:
 
a) They are afraid of losing control, and
b) They don’t know how to do it any other way.
 
Our research shows that 67 percent of customer service functionality is still performed by customer care professionals working within an in-house service department.
 
Insourcing or outsourcing customer service generally are mutually exclusive options. This either/or decision has been frustrating for executives who want to utilize existing infrastructure but also realize they need to be more responsive and flexible to customers. They need assistance implementing an internal, home-based customer service program but, until recently, had nowhere to turn. Knowing that it takes more than simply buying the staff laptops and letting them work from home, my advice has always been to outsource the problem to the experts. However, there were always some companies that decided to forge ahead on their own, with results that left a lot to be desired.
 
Consulting – A Hybrid Solution
 
As the advantages of the home-based business model have become more visible, there has been an increase in the number of companies trying to implement an at-home workforce themselves. Unfortunately, these businesses often lack the knowledge, experience or resources to create such a program. They waste valuable time and money by making the same mistakes faced 11 years ago when this type of call center was first conceived. By reinventing the wheel, so to speak, they run into the same frustrations, the same challenges and the same technology issues that have been solved long ago by companies providing these services as an outsourced option. To those companies I would like to suggest consulting as a better option.
 
A new consulting service has recently been introduced into the marketplace to help companies develop their own home-based service department. In addition, there are a number of individuals who have experience and are willing to help guide companies. By leveraging existing expertise, companies don’t have to start at square one. Instead, they receive expert advice and a customized plan to meet their specific needs. Although I can’t address the consulting processes of other consultants, the following methodology used by Alpine Access Consulting to establish more than 100 at-home programs for different size businesses provides a good overview of how this service works.
 
Consulting Stages
 
Below is a sample of the various stages a company should go through when implementing the at-home model. Companies should look for consulting partners who offer the flexibility and willingness to provide assistance across all stages or who are just willing to step in where needed.
 
Discovery
Carefully examine your existing business and customer service programs.

2. Needs/ Cost-Benefit Analysis 
Identify gaps between what you need and what is being provided by the existing situation. This includes a security assessment and return on investment analysis.

3. Solution Development
Create a roadmap for implementing an at-home solution. This tactical plan may include finding outside assistance with all or just a few areas such as recruiting, training, workforce management, technology infrastructure, security or any other aspect of operation.

4. Implementation
Implement the complete program yourself, or outsource areas in which no internal resources exist. For example, a company may decide to handle recruiting employees in-house, but let an outside company conduct the virtual training.

5. Operation
If performed correctly, virtual call center operations can provide more insight into employee behavior and performance than if the person was sitting in the next room. Using advice from the consultants, companies will learn, among other things, how to manage and communicate effectively with remote workers.

6. Monitoring
Tracking performance of any program is a critical step to ensuring lasting ROI and success. Monitoring and evaluating key performance indicators will help make necessary adjustments.

7. Evolution
Once the program has been implemented and is operating effectively, continue to improve with industry best practices.
 
Whether you need help understanding how your company can benefit from an at-home program, are looking for assistance with converting to a home-based workforce, or perhaps have an existing home-based solution in need of improvement, you no longer have to walk blindly down this path alone.
 
If you aren’t ready to offload the hassle of customer service to an outsourcing partner, I encourage you to at least leverage the expertise of a consultant to create operational efficiencies within your organization. By learning from the experts and avoiding mistakes they’ve already made, you’ll be able to improve the quality of service delivered in a shorter timeframe and at a lower cost. After all, in the words of George Bernard Shaw, “Success does not consist in never making mistakes, but in never making the same one a second time.”
 
Rob Duncan is Chief Operating Officer of Alpine Access, Inc. a Denver, Colorado-based provider of call center services using home-based customer service and sales employees. Alpine Access clients include numerous Fortune 100 companies in a wide variety of industries. 
 

Don’t forget to check out TMCnet’s White Paper Library, which provides a selection of in-depth information on relevant topics affecting the IP Communications industry. The library offers white papers, case studies and other documents which are free to registered users.


Rob Duncan is COO of Alpine Access, Inc., a Golden, Colorado-based provider of contact center services using exclusively home-based customer service and sales employees.Duncan can be reached at 303-279-0585.

Edited by Michael Dinan

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